When parties marry, each acquires certain rights and undertakes certain responsibilities with respect to the other party to the marriage. One of these responsibilities is the duty to support each other; i.e., spousal support.
In the traditional "four-square" family (father, mother, two children), dad went to work and mom stayed home to take care of the children. Such is no longer the "typical" case. Women make up a huge volume of today's work force and, often, earn more than do their husbands.
When there are no children involved (because the parties do not have children, or have no children under the age of 18), spousal support is determined by finding the net monthly income of each party. Net monthly income ("NMI") is defined as a party's income from all sources, less those deductions over which the wage earner has no control (e.g., federal, state and local taxes, union dues, mandatory retirement/savings programs). Once NMI for each party has been determined, the support obligation is calculated by subtracting the lower NMI from the higher NMI and multiplying the difference by 40%.
Both parents are responsible for the support of their children until such time as each child becomes 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is the last to occur. Child support is determined in accordance with the Pennsylvania Support Guidelines ("Guidelines"). The Guidelines set forth the presumptive amount necessary to provide food, clothing and shelter for the children of an intact family. When the family is no longer intact, responsibility for the Guideline amount is apportioned between the parties in the same ratio as the NMI of each bears to the combined net monthly income ("CNMI") of the parties, and the parent with the higher NMI pays his/her proportionate share to the parent with the lower NMI.
Note that spousal and child support contemplate the basic necessities of life: food, clothing and shelter. The higher wage earner may also be expected/required to contribute to his/her proportionate share of, e.g.:
Private school tuition
Medical costs (> $250.00/year for each child and, if appropriate, the spouse)
Calculations to determine child and spousal support differ when the parent with the higher NMI is also the custodial parent, or when the parents have substantial or shared custody of the minor children.